Music video uses Cinemagraph GIFs to haunting effect

The video for Joel Compass' Back To Me uses the popular GIF technique where a still photo contains a single element of motion.

The black and white video for Joel Compass' new R&B single Back To Me incorporates a glitchy movement in the background of otherwise-inanimate frames. It tells the story of a less-than-stellar father and his son.  After a heist goes wrong, the young boy is forced to deal with his father’s gunshot wound – and that’s where things take a turn for the witchy.

The video was directed by Ian and Cooper – aka Ian Schwartz and Cooper Roberts.

The innovative video was constructed with still images using the Cinemagraph technique, where one motion is isolated and the rest of the frame remains still, a visual that has been seen as standalone GIFs (such as with the popular Cinemagram app). The creators claim that this is the first time that Cinemagraphics have been strung together to create a narrative.

The film was shot with the RED Epic Monochrome, which uses its sensor differently for black and white photography.

"The initial spark for the technique came from the lovely video commissioner Dilly Gent, who referenced La Jetée [a 1962 short film by Chris Marker composed from a series of still images] in her brief," says Ian Schwartz.  "Cooper Roberts and I did a ton of research on cinemagraphs; what effects were possible, what kind of movement was most striking, etc.

"We shot-listed everything and specifically mapped out what parts of the frame would be in motion so that we could shoot it correctly.  We knew it'd be a challenge to communicate story using only still images without the help of a narrator, so we also made a really rough animatic of the whole video, so we could test how it paced to the music and came together narratively."

"The shoot itself felt like part photo shoot and part cinema," continues Ian.  "In each set-up, we'd have our actors pose, holding still in a certain position while we shot about 10 seconds of footage.  Different shots required different post techniques, but in general the cinemagraphs came together in After Effects by layering a still frame over the moving footage and through masking, rotoscoping and stabilization."

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